Luntz Tells Me He Hasn't Thought of My Polling Insight

Frank Luntz, the famous pollster, was at the National Press Club this evening, where I work. He opened up the floor for comments toward the beginning of his talk, so I chimed up. He called on me saying that I look like Allen Ginsberg, so I recited the beginning ofHowl. I'd never been told by anyone that I look like Ginsberg -- what was eerie is that I'd been talking to a friend about the poet just a few hours before, more on that in short order. I thanked Luntz for the compliment and gave him my crit of polling:

Pollsters as far as I can tell never actually ask people who they want to be president among the candidates. They ask people some variation of "if the election were held today, which of the following would you vote for". They don't ask "who among the candidates to you agree with the most?" or "who among the candidates to you most want to be president?"

And so they are not really opinion polls, they simply purported to try to predict the outcome of an election. The current method turns citizens into pundits. It marginalizes candidates in the primaries that seem to have little chance of winning in a general election and totally undermines third party candidates in the general election.

I outlined this in a piece in 2004: "Why Public Opinion Polls Aren't".

After a bit of back and forth, Luntz seemed to really get the point far more than any other pollster I've talked to. He said he'd consider incorporating it into his work. We'll see.

The funniest part of the evening came when Luntz asked people about what they'd "imagine" their life to be like -- what their "American dream" was. The first person's response was to leave the U.S. and go to Catalonia. More on the "American dream" down the line as well.

[originally published at on Feb. 26, 2007]